This weekend saw a lot of qualifying activity for both the 2016 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. At this point, most results are predictable (England over San Marino, 6-0), but some wild upsets also pop up from time to time. Do we have a new golden generation in Iceland? Is the Netherlands done for? And what happened to Jamaica?
Euro 2016 Qualifiers
England dominates, Belgium dispatches Bosnia, and the Welsh continue their mad ascension up the FIFA table. There were a few unexpected draws, but four games really stick out as notable from this weekend. Also…
Officially qualified: **England are the first team to officially qualify** Everybody panic!
Officially eliminated: Andorra, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Gibraltar, Greece, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, San Marino, Serbia
- Iceland def. Netherlands, 1-0
- Not everyday that a team from Pot 5 smacks down the overall #3 seed in the tournament, but here we are, on the brink of a Dutch collapse and an Icelandic coming-out party. Actually… maybe it is everyday, since Iceland defeated the Dutch earlier in this very tournament. The story of this game was Martins Indi’s mad red card.
- Albania draws Denmark, 0-0
- In a much needed game for each club, a draw results in the nations being even on points in their group… but Albania has a game in hand. Albania is further favored in their remaining games. Both clubs play lowly Armenia and high-flying Portugal, but Albania has another bitter game against Serbia. Recall–Serbia abandoned their home match against Albania for their fans attacking Albania players (after a drone flying a pro-Albania flag flew over the pitch). That game is still a month away, but all of UEFA (and FIFA for that matter) will definitely be watching.
- Georgia def. Scotland, 1-0
- A shameful, offensively toothless performance from Scotland. This loss puts them out of the tournament for the moment. They must now absolutely take points off of either Germany or Poland to have a chance.
- Finland def. Greece, 1-0
- As I have discussed here before, Greece just keeps on collapsing. 2004 is a long time ago, and this troubled nation’s troubled football association keeps collapsing. Congrats to the Finns, whose victory staved off elimination just barely.
- Luxembourg def. FYR Macedonia, 1-0
- Not a huge upset as neither squad are terribly strong, but Macedonia really shouldn’t be on par with a micronation forty ranks behind them in the FIFA rankings. But, then again, both nations were already eliminated, so you can’t blame either for coasting a bit.
2018 World Cup Qualifiers
Tons of blowouts on September 3, including games of 5, 6, 8, 9, and a mind-blowing 15 to nothing.
- Syria def. Singapore, 1-0
- Congrats to war-torn Syria. Their good play thus far is one of the feel-good stories of World Cup qualifying.
- Iran def. Guam, 6-0
- The first major disaster for upstart Guam. They knew Iran was the buzzsaw of this group, and the Guamanians ran into it. Another huge game for Guam this Tuesday, as they face group leaders Oman. A win here would vault Guam to the top of the group, and the Iran game will look like a minor set-back.
- China draws Hong Kong, 0-0
- Why can’t China establish a quality international squad? But the story here is Hong Kong, who has 7 points from 3 games and 9 goals score to none allowed. Big game against Qatar this Tuesday; the winner likely wins the group.
This stage of CONCACAF is a home-and-home series to qualify for the group stage. One bad performance here, and you’re going home.
- Canada def. Belize, 3-0
- Welcome back Canadian Soccer! After trashing them here a few months back, this side looked like a good team again.
- Nicaragua def. Jamaica, 3-2
- The surprise of the weekend. Nicaragua marches into Kingston and takes all three points. Earlier this summer, Jamaica lit CONCACAF on fire during the Gold Cup and impressed (despite their losses) at Copa America. Is it possible that Winfried Schäfer has pushed this squad too hard too often this summer? They will have a lot of work to do in the return series this Tuesday. Expect the Reggae Boyz to come out firing.